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A CRIMINALS' BILL. ..

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A CRIMINALS' BILL. HOME SECRETARY'S MEASURE. Plan for Dealing with Hardened Wrongdoers. In the Hocsa of Commons on Wednesday, Mr GLADSTONE, Home Secretary, in asking leave to introduce a Bill to make better provision for the prevention of crime and for that purpose to provide for the reformation of young offenders and the prolonged detention of habitual criminals, said he wished to lay strong emphasis on the fact that civilised countries were paying special attention to pre- vention ratber than the punishment of crime. The first part of the Bill established State re- formatories and the second proposed a more effective method for dealing with criminals who wilfully persisted in crime. The first part of the Bill was really the completion of a definite scheme for dealing with young offenders up to the age of 21, or even of a higher age. It was proposed that State re- formatories, known as Borstal institutions, should be substituted for the present treat- ment of young offenders. The Bill provided that young persons iconvicted on indictmpnt must be sentenced to not less than a year and npt more than three years in a Borstal in- stitution. The second part of the Bill un. doubtedly raised a new question on which there might be genuine and perhaps strong differences of opinion, but it was the result of careful study. Following the finding of a jury the Court would have power to sentence habitual criminals to a term of preventive detention, this detention to continue until the man gave bona-fide and sufficient assurances that he would take to an honest life, or until by age or physical infirmity he became physi- cally incapable of resuming a life of crime. In Ho case, therefore, was life imprisonment in contemplation. Under that system it would be open to any man to secure his own dis- charge on reasonable conditions. The Present Prison System. Was a sufficient deterrent to 50 or 60 per cent. of the prisoners, but there were two classes for whom it was not a deterrent. The first and by far the larger class was that which was a difficulty and a nuisance rather than a danger to the State. He referred to those who were criminals chiefly because of mental or physical deficiency rather than o f any settled intention to pursue a life of crime. The second class of prisoners were far more formidable offenders. They were physically fit and took to crime by preference. They declined work when it was offered them. They refused the helping hand and laughed at the present system of imprison- ment. Generally, when these men were in prison they were most excellently behaved. They were orthodox worshippers in chapel, and in many cases they were regular attendants at Communion. (Laughter.) Every night 8,000 police in the Metropolis marched from the stations to their beats ? Why that great number > It was because there were at large 1,200 or 1,500 potential housebreakers, whose avowed object was crime. The Bill proposed that where a person was convicted on indict- ment for a crime, and the jury found that in fact he was an habitual criminal, the court might pass a further sentence which would be served in a new institution. The jury must be Satisfied that the prisoner had been pre- viously convicted of three serious crimes. The prisoner would have an unqualified right of appeal. In cases where an additional sentence bad been passed the prisoners, after serving their terms of penal servitude, would be re- Tnoved to a plaice of detention, which would be specially built and adapted for the purpose in the Isle of Wight, about half a mile from I Parkhurst Prison. Th, prisoners would be Strider the Prison Acts, but the rules would be Subject to modification. It was proposed that the discipline should be less rigorous than now prevailed as regarded hours, talking, recreative occupation, and food. By good conduct a man would be able to rise to a more privileged grade. He would have regular work within the precincts of the prison, and he would be able to earn wages. He would not be treated as a hopeless offender, but from the first every effort would be made To Reclaim Him. (Cheers.) There would first of all be a gen- eral supervision of directors, who would report regularly to the Secretary of State as regarded the conduct and industry of each man, and there Would be a general supervision by the Secretary of State hiself. Secondly, they established a Board of Visitors, and, thirdly, they established a special committee to consider individual cases. There would be two statutory meet- ings per annum of this special committee, Who would report to the Recretary of State. Therefore, before conviction, they had these safeguards—the Public Prosecutor, the jury, the view of the judge, the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the Secretary of State advising as to the prerogative of mercy after con- viction. There would be constant supervision by the Secretary of State of reports of the authorities, inspection by the Board of Visitors, and reports of the special com ? ™ twice a year. Hope and not fear was best antidote to criminal tendencies and men would not be allowed to lose hope when in this place of detention. The system pro- posed differed absolutely from the present penal system in that it enabled a man to effect his own release. No doubt at the outset discharges to sonys extent must be experi- mental, but any serious breach of licence would mean re-arrest and return to the place of detention. He attached much importance to the deterrent effect which the power given by this Bill would produce. Men in whose benefit the Bill was designed were usually skilled and competent men, who, if they thought fit, would have no difficulty in earning an honest living. His object was to prove to such men that a life of crime could not pay, and must only involve detention and hard work. This Bill was the necessary consequence M the wiser and more humane treatment now obeing adopted for the benefit of prisoners generally. The present prison treatment did hot deter those who were attracted by and deliberately took to a life of crime. He made no apology for the introduction of a new principle in our penal, system. On the con- trary, he believd that in this principle and in the extension of it will be found the solution of many of the more difficult problems in the, treatment of crime. The Bill applied to Scot- land. Leave having been given, Mr Gladstone brought in the Bill, and it was formally read a first time amid Ministerial cheers. £ —————

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